Monday, August 17, 2020

My Life In ... Wine

The fifth in an occasional series of alternative Curriculum Vitae because no-one on their death bed says "I wish I'd spent more time in the office".

When I first met Mary she had a reasonable knowledge of wine having taken the Wine and Spirit Trust's Certificate and Higher Certificate exams. I, on the other hand, knew little but did have a full 60 bottle wine rack in the cupboard under the stairs, perhaps that is what attracted her to me! After we married the wine collection expanded rapidly and our house hunting requirements thence forward included a cellar. This was our stock at home at Christmas 2006 and even more out with the wine merchants.
The following are not necessarily the finest of wines but ones that stuck in my memory as milestones on my own personal wine route. The dates are those of drinking not the vintage; all dates approx.
Sherry, "blended" (1972): The student drinking equivalent of rummaging in a skip. When I lived in Walton Street, Oxford there was an off-licence. One evening as my mates and I were wandering down the street we saw the shop had put out rubbish for the next day. Amongst that were a number of boxes that had contained loose sherry. My friend Vince picked one up and shook it. We could hear remnants of sherry that wouldn’t go through the tap sloshing about. There must have been a dozen of these containers so we grabbed them, unscrewed the taps and emptied the assorted sherries into a jug. We must have got about 2 pints of sherry, blended. It tasted fine to us, it was alcoholic and sweet and we were poor students.

Moulin a Vent (1975): The first "proper" wine whose name I remember. When I was lodging with friends in Oxford we had a bottle of Beaujolais Cru at a dinner party. It was delicious and we looked it up in their Hugh Johnson World Atlas of Wine. It was a revelation to me that you could know in such detail where a wine came from and see the small village on a map. The following year I drove down to the south of France with friends for a holiday in a gîte. We drove down through Burgundy using Hugh Johnson to plan our route instead of a normal road atlas.
Rüdesheimer Rosengarten (1979): The first wine I ever bought by the case. I had drunk it by the glass in after work sessions in the local Davy’s wine bar close to our office in Noble Street. I was so impressed I bought 12 bottles. Not the most economical way to buy wine but I knew nothing of wine merchants and wine warehouses!

Banda Azul (1980): The first wine I bought more than one case of. This was in the days of Oddbins expansion in London and they were doing this wine as their Wine of the Month: buy a case and get an extra discount.  It was such a favourite with my group of friends at the time that several of us went out and bought a case or two each. A real bargain, it was all we drank for some months thereafter.

Marque de Caceres (1981): My first experience of quality Rioja. By then I was working for Coopers & Lybrand in their management consultancy division. I went to see a production at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and bumped into the head of the IT group. Always an uncertain etiquette situation when you bump into your boss who you don’t know particularly well in a social context. Full marks to the boss, she invited me and my girlfriend back round to her flat just around the corner for a glass of wine. And it was my first memorable experience of a seriously full-bodied red. Delicious even if I had not the faintest idea how to pronounce it.

As long as I can get the cork out!
 Around this time wine warehouses started to appear where you could taste the wines before buying. To me a novel concept. While I was in such an establishment in Merton a man came in who declined the offer of a tasting. "We're having a party. I've got the beer. The missus says we have to have some wine. I don't care what it is as long as I can get the cork out!"

Zind Humbrecht Herrenweg Turckheim (1987): My first discovery of dessert Gewurtztraminer. I don’t know how I discovered this wine but it gave me my first introduction to a seriously delicious wine. I knew about Rhone sweeties such as Muscat (de Beaume de Venise, Miravalle and Frontignan) and have majored in dessert wines ever since, especially the magnificent triple vintage of 1988/89/90.

Chateau Suduiraut (1992): My first experience of premier cru classé Sauternes. Mary and I won a week's wine course at Chateau Magnol in a competition run by Decanter. Previously only for trade Barton & Guestier we guessed that they were thinking of opening it up as a commercial holiday offering and a dozen of us were the lucky guinea pigs for a trial run. Classes in the morning, a four course lunch with wines, and afternoon excursion to a chateau then a four course meal in the evening with even more wine. One trip was to Chateau Suduiraut, a neighbour to Yquem, producing Sauternes from similar terroir for a fraction the price. We got to taste the wine in cask: nectar of the Gods!

Chateau D'Angludet (1993): The first case of wine Mary and I bought together. Discovered at the East Anglian Wine Festival. It is a Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel from Margaux and a wine we have returned to many times since.
Chateau Lynch Bages (1993, vintage 1989): Our wedding list wine. We married late and both had well established households. Combining our household presented a challenge with the wedding list as we already had pretty much two of everything. Once answer was fine wine from the year we met. Friends could buy as many or a few bottles as they liked; one extremely generous wine-loving friend bought six, we ended up with a complete case of 12. It was stashed away for at least 10 years before we cracked the first one. We still have four left after 27 years!

Chateau Yquem (1994, vintage 1988): A gift from a friend. We had our friend Bron stay with us for a few months in 1994 while he was between house moves. As a thank you present he gave me this to be saved for my 70th birthday. That's a long time to have to wait to open a present
Colavecchio Primitivo (2008): My favourite grape variety from Puglia. When we bought a home in southern Italy in 2004 we were introduced to a range of regional varietals. This rich, jammy, alcoholic wine is my favourite. This cantina sells wine from the pump, take along your own containers and stock up of some serious quaffing wine for around €1.60 per litre.

For more on my wine voyage see elsewhere on this blog: "Wine".

Who knows what delights the future will bring?

No comments: